It starts early. Here a father leads his children along the pool deck with no regard for the fact that he’s put his son, not just in a Speedo, but a pink Speedo! You can’t fight that kind of tradition.
Euros and Speedos and Other Images From the 2002 Ironman GermanyIf you’ve been to the Hawaiian Ironman and walked into the grocery store within the final 5-days prior to the race, you’ve seen them. If you’ve been to Europe on a hot summer day, you’ve seen them. If you’ve opened an issue of Muscle and Fitness, you’ve seen them. They’re known as “Speedos”, derived from the brand name maker of these men’s swimsuits. They’re small, they’re revealing, they’re made for swimming fast – not grocery shopping.
Nevertheless, since the beginning of time – well, at least since the beginning of international participation in Ironman racing, they’ve been worn in downtown Kailua-Kona restaurants, retail shops, and, yes, even up and down the aisles of the local KTA grocery store. While not all of the offenders are European (there are plenty of North and South American violators), there does seem to be an unusual number who are prone to “hanging loose” in the land of aloha at all the wrong times. Locals give a heavy sigh and shake their heads in disgust. Some of the younger, tougher Hawaiians have been known to unleash a verbal tirade, “Hey brah, why you need to weah dem banana hammocks?!” or “Hey, bun huggah Bob! You look mo bettah in a skirt!” It makes no impact. The weather’s warm and they’re on vacation. Anything goes.
Recently I had the good fortune to tag along with my legendary better half to the land of Jurgen, Lothar, Thomas, and Normann where this behavior originates. Hoping to discover the source of this scourge and, perhaps, better understand how to end the madness, I realized that no number of Underpants Run events will ever make a dent.
Speedos in public places other than swimming pools will be a plague that human kind will have to deal with into eternity.
The first place I noticed the difference in underpants attitude was at Frankfurt’s public pool. Granted, this is exactly the venue in which you actually should be wearing your Speedo, the Germans do so with a gusto that you just won’t find in the U.S. The colors, styles, and obvious transference of the tradition from elders to youth becomes apparent. Some actually wear what appear to be underpants – how can you fight that?
Then Paula and I head down to the Main (pronounced “mine”) River to go for a jog. Within a 3-mile loop we encounter 3-Speedos all worn by men over 50 who have absolutely no intention of swimming. Nice. I guess if you’d been rained on for the previous 2-months of summer and suddenly the sun came out, you’d strip down and take advantage of the opportunity to soak up some vitamin D producing rays too. The thought that freaked me out was thinking that the guys actually had those suits on under their street clothes. How’s that work? Whatever happened to good old pair of tighty whities straight out of the $3.99 three pack? Maybe they don’t have those over here. After all, I didn’t see a Walmart anywhere.
Race day capped it all off. While struggling through a spectator filled run course, I realized that many of the cheers were coming from guys in Speedos . . . and they weren’t racing. I can just hear the phone call that led to this, “Ja, halo. Ja, Helmut, how are you. Tomorrow is the Ironman. Get your Speedo on and let’s go down and cheer for the runners – I’ll bring the beer, you bring the cigarettes.” And so it was planned and that’s how I happened upon group after group of German men in their underpants cheering wildly between swigs from their tall cans and drags off of their cigs.
In the future I’ll continue to organize Underpants Runs in protest of the inappropriate wearing of Speedos in public but I’ll do so with a better understanding of what I’m up against. Perhaps, I’m beginning to rather sheepishly realize that the fact that I’m willing to run down the road in my underpants might well be explained by my German heritage. Could it be possible? Could it be genetic?